Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

I am so glad that I decided to read this particular novel by a writer who has become so precious in my reading life this last twelve months as a accomplished biography writer.

Read in isolation this would have been a wonderfully dynamic and emotionally arresting novel set in  Post War Paris and the Cote D’Azure  and in Paris in the modern day, intertwining the lives of two women who at first glance could not seem more different. who meet on one traumatic and historically resonant night in Paris in 2015.

Kurtis is in a state of emotional flux, the sudden loss of her teenage daughter as a runaway has impacted every day since, fracturing a marriage which was already showing cracks and fissures and for better or worse allowing an alluring American to capture her passions and emotions, further muddying her marital tension.

 After a reconciliation of sorts in search of a common goal, she sits in a bar in Paris awaiting word from her fading Actor  Husband Oliver on whether he was able to find and bring her daughter to her for a reunion she has been dreaming of since her daughter’s disappearance.

Here she meets Marguerite and elderly film star of regal bearing who becomes her saviour and eventually confidante after it becomes apparent Lizzie and Oliver have been caught up in the Bataclan Terrorist incident of November 2015.

Here Carol Drinkwater crafts a complex  story with a constantly moving narrative where the gentle romance of two post war young people is interwoven with the modern day travails of Kurtis and Oliver.

Charlie and Marguerite are outsiders whose chance meeting and shared adventure bring them to love.She is seeking solace in the glamour of the movie making haven of Cannes and it’s environs and, He seeking anonymity in a long dreamed for  rural idyll. By seeking to be come part of the agricultural fabric of the Riviera ,growing glorious scented blooms for a local perfumery,Charlie makes an attempt to escape from the bitter memories and traumas of the War.

It is brave and difficult to set a large portion of a book in the real events of a very recent terrorist atrocity, readers will have their memories of that awful night, but Carol’s descriptions of those first traumatic, confusing and manic hours is tightly described and sensitively handled.

What elevates the book to something quite extraordinary is the authenticity of the description of the French and Middle Eastern settings in flashback, the fragrances, the flavours and colourful snapshots of the flora and fauna of the area. The Rose harvest in the book echoes strongly of the issues the Carole and her beloved husband  Michel had with their olive harvests and her love for the people and the area is evident and boosts this part of the story immensely.

Carol’s personal experience as an olive farmer, beekeeper and adventurer on the ancient routes of the Olive informs and enriches the story, giving it a depth that is rare in stories of a similar type. 

I loved the story, was swept away by Marguerite and Charlie , felt the pain of Kurtis in the uncertainly of that night and the the confusion and frustrations at the  gradual unraveling of her marriage after their own whirlwind romance and the palpable , if not final loss of a child. The uncertainty is a bar to all but a cursory existence rather than a rich and fulfilling life, something Marguerite has managed despite personal tragedy.

 I liked the juxtaposition of the two central women, seeking personal fulfilment outside the domestic confines.

I left this story with a warm glow. The final chapters are a wonderful reward, more than that I cannot divulge.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Timothy Other- The Boy who Climbed Marzipan Mountain

Timothy Other - The boy who climbed Marzipan Mountain  by L.Sydney Abel

Genre: Children's Fiction.  ages 8-80

Regular visitors to my blog will know I am not adverse to indulging my more childlike side by reading a book aimed squarely at children.

Timothy Other was a rare treat! Written in a fun and playful style that pulls the reader in from the opening, where unfortunate foundling are given glorious names derived from the events of their arrival by a kind but slightly distant proprietor. The kids are well fed and treated like individuals, not an idyllic upbringing, but as close as one can get in an Orphanage.

Timothy is an inquisitive and questing young boy and his adventure begun as a stowaway on a removals lorry  is filled with whimsy , humour and fantastical friends and foes. The story whizzes along and I am sure will enthrall and thrill the younger reader and filled this rather more seasoned child with a feeling of warmth and contentment as I journeyed with Tim and his pals.

This is a story about family both acquired and lost and it is one I would heartily recommend for anyone seeking a story to transport you for a while. I look forward to Tim's continuing adventures!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

In The Darkness, that's where I'll know you. By Luke Smitherd

This was an audiobook read that I was gifted by my lovely friend Leya who is already a fan of Master Smitherd and thought I might enjoy the book.

She was not wrong, this is a marvellous book made up of four shorter instalments previously published separately. It begins as a mildly strange ,scenario -led fantasy  where man wakes up after a heavy night in the mind of a troubled young woman. The story begins with their initial shock, horror and fear  and gradual acceptance of the problem at hand . Soon romantic overtones begin unfurling from the catalyst of their shared predicament but here things get a lot more complicated and the story develops into something complex and dark that really engages the brain cells to keep up with the twists and turns.

The ideas of alternate realities, the notion of self and the idea that  love is born from a meeting of mind's rather  than anything more visceral or palpable are all developed with a deft and light touch. The reader is drawn deeper and deeper into a world of alternative lives where the smallest of change might affect the destiny of our fated lovers  and how the smallest deviation from our projected course can have consequences in horrific and life changing ways.

The complexity of the plot is breathtaking and the tension truly does build to an almost unbearable level.

I throughly enjoyed the story and the enjoyment of the tale was increased by the non "dramatic" delivery from the author himself.  It was not acted, more expressed. It was all the more emotionally arresting and deeply ominous by having the inflections in exactly the place the creator of the piece intended.

Definitely an author I will seek out again and not in the distant future at that. I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The City of Mirrors By Justin Cronin

This final book in this behemoth of a novel series was truly a quest. Characters take journeys often with no plan for return. The final confrontation  builds slowly from a false time of peace for our heroes and the ominous "long game "machinations of Fanning begin to come to bear.

As with all quests the heroes have to trudge through a wilderness while the camera shows picturesque vistas.. here there is an interminable middle section where Fanning waxes lyrical, regards his navel and tells you his entire back story ... it seems to go on just a bit longer than comfortable. I know this is a device to make him sympathetic but I found even young Tim a bit obnoxious.

Amy and Fanning  are two sides of the same coin  and here they battle once more for the fate of humanity ... 

Familiar faces Alicia , Peter,Michael Sarah and their broods are like old friends so meeting them again after quite a break, was so nice. Survival , last stands, bravery and sacrifices aplenty keep the action moving and deep at the heart of it all this is a story of deep all encompassing Love , for family, for friends and ultimately soulmates.

This book was exciting, tense, epic  and deeply moving. I had a lump in my throat and a fast beating heart often.

A fitting end!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Strange Magic by Syd Moore

There is a great deal to like in this the first in The Essex Witches Series, not least  a museum featuring the Tragic History of Essex as a hotbed for witchcraft accusations, and an inheritance  from an estranged Grandfather that is not entirely welcomed by both the remaining staff and by the headstrong recipient.

I enjoyed the numerous historical nuggets thrown liberally about to pepper the story with  historical authenticity which made the story feel more important to me as a bit of a feminist that Witchcraft on the whole was all about the subjugation of women who did not comply with masogynistic norms. The obvious passion for the subject from Ms Moore is evident in the careful way the complexities of the case of a real life woman have been woven into this fictional story.

The central characters of Rosie and Sam are complex and interesting and I was more than happy to tag along on this initial mystery with them. The idea of a Benefits Fraud investigator as a protagonist and her ability to read people is a great lead into her more untapped gifts (rather under utilised here sadly) which link her to a darker heritage I liked the slight frisson of sexual tension between them , but I was gratified that is did not become a romance with mysterious magical elements, but rather the opposite. Their interaction and the way their relationship was not quantified made it the more interesting.

The central possession was macabre but perhaps a little tamer than I was expecting, but as a foundational story  for a series, this was exciting enough to secure my further reading. I look forward to more.